The Swiss Railways (SBB) recognized before World War I the advantages of electric railroad operation. In November of 1913 the decision was reached to electrify the Gotthard line between Erstfeld and Bellinzona. The rising cost of coal and the lack of coal during the following war years confirmed the correctness of this decision and contributed to the acceleration of electrification at the end of the war. Electrification of the Gotthard grades as well as the Gotthard tunnel was completed by December 12, 1920.
The SBB had to come up with a brand new locomotive for freight trains, because there was hardly any data available for such a mountain locomotive. The builders Maschinen-Fabrik Oerlikon (MFO) and Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik Winterthur (SLM) suggested a 2-6-6-2 locomotive with long hoods and two powered trucks. "The" Gotthard was born with this "Crocodile" as it was quickly named. Between 1919 and 1922 a total of 33 locomotives were delivered as Ce 6/8II 14251-14283 that were destined to dominate heavy freight service on the Gotthard.
The two powered truck frames, each with three powered axles and a Bissel pilot truck, were connected by a close coupling. A short locomotive body was enthroned between the two powered truck frames which gave the locomotive marvelous maneuverability on curves. The locomotive body on the Ce 6/8II measured just 6,020 mm / 19 feet 9 inches with the total length of the locomotive at 19,460 mm / 63 feet 10-5/16 inches. This would be the only road engine with such a short locomotive body on the SBB. The drive system was done with two traction motors per powered truck via countershaft, jackshaft, triangular rods, and side rods to the driving axles. Between 1942 and 1947 thirteen of these units were equipped with new, more powerful traction motors at the same time that the maximum speed was raised from 65 to 75 km/h / 41 to 47 mph. The performance rose accordingly from 1,650 to 2,700 kilowatts / 2,212 to 3,619 horsepower and the modified locomotives were given the class designation Be 6/8II with the road numbers 13251-13259, 13261 and 13263-13265.
The first of the original Ce 6/8II to be retired was from 1965 on. At the same time eleven units began to be converted for use at large switch yards, whereby the following changes were done: installation of switching radio, removal of one pantograph, and installation of new platform railings in front of the hoods. These "switcher crocodiles" were in service the longest and ran well into 1986. A total of seven Ce/Be 6/8II were preserved as famous and popular locomotives: SBB Historic (14253), the Swiss Transportation Museum in Lucerne (13254), the South Railroad Museum in Mürzzuschlag, Austria (13257), the Technology Museum of Speyer (14267), Club del San Gottardo (14276), and the Auto and Technology Museum in Sinsheim (14282).